The George Carlin Elements of Style



George Denis Patrick Carlin was born on May 12, 1937, in Manhattan, New York. A celebrated comedian, Carlin found himself pursuing numerous media channels to get his message to the public. At various points in his life, he was a radio disk jockey, a television personality, an actor in movies, and a writer. Carlin's material tended to stick to a few subjects, e.g., politics, psychology, religion, and other, more risque topics. A large portion of his routines were dedicated to his love-hate relationship with the English language—words and phrases he thought were unnecessary—as well as proverbs, colloquialisms, and other facets of language. Tragically, on June 22, 2008, Carlin passed away from heart failure. He was on tour at the time, and he had more shows planned. Unbeknownst to his legions of fans, Carlin was working on another project at the time of his death. I won't tell you how I obtained it, for I'd have to kill you if I did, but I managed to do it. Upon deciphering his chicken scratch, and cleaning some of the dirt and cobwebs, I learned that Carlin was apparently rewriting William Strunk Jr.'s Elements of Style. With a few additions and a bit of cleaning, here are Carlin's final written and assembled thoughts. In this tiny tome, the greatest secrets of writing are concealed. Use it well.

—David Willis

Elementary Rules of Usage

3. Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas.

When it comes to my organs, I've decided to donate only my prostate and testicles, with the stipulation that they go to one of those lovely feminists.

This rule is a tough one to identify. It can be pretty fuckin' hard to decide whether a single word or a phrase is parenthetic. If it only interrupts the flow of the sentence a little bit, you're A-okay to get rid of those commas. Just throw those bastards out. However, whether it's a teensy little interruption, or a huge fuckin' one, never get rid of one comma and leave the other. It makes you look like a moron, and if you do it, I'm kickin ya straight in the fuckin' nuts! I'm talkin about sloppy writing such as:

Whenever I see a large crowd of people I wonder how many of them, will eventually require autopsies.
When he got loaded the human cannonball knew, there were not many men of his caliber.

If you're writin' a date, take note on how to properly document it. Like so:

April to June, 1937.
June 22, 2008.
Wednesday, September 29th.

You don't need a comma if you write it like this:

22 June 2008

That last form is a great way to write the date; it's easy to read and easy to grasp for you idiots out there.

A name or direct address to someone also counts as a parenthetical expression.

Listen, Caleb, we got a new religion. You wanna join?
Say, officer! Could you bring that twisted chap over here a little closer? I've never seen a man shaped quite like that.

Abbreviations, like e.g. and i.e., as well as abbreviations for academic degrees, and titles that follow a name also fall under the purview of parenthetic statements, and ya need to punctuate them correctly.

...comb, wallet, lighter, hankie, pen, cigarettes, contraceptives.
Hooter Stumpfuck, Ph.D., led the lecture.
Orville Pigdicker, Lawyer.

You should never separate a term of identification from a noun with a comma, either.

Alexander the Great
The Comedian George Carlin
Skip Hitler, Leader

Junior has been thought of commonly as a parenthetic statement, but it's restrictive and doesn't need a comma.

Randy Bush, Jr.

Relative clauses that are nonrestrictive are also considered parenthetic. Additionally, clauses that are introduced by conjunctions indicating time or place are parenthetic, meaning, you need a comma, fucko. A clause is considered nonrestrictive if it doesn't identify or define the preceding noun.

Why is it when you buy five shirts, there's always one you never wear?
Instead of school busing and prayer in schools, which are both controversial, why not a joint solution? Prayer in buses. Just drive these kids around and let them pray their fuckin' empty little heads off.
If cockpit voice recorders are so indestructible, why don't they just build an airplane that's one big cockpit voice recorder?

Each of these statements have clauses which are nonrestrictive; they don't refer to an individual or define an object, they merely link two statements together. These sentences can be split into two individual sentences:

It seems this is a common occurrence when buying multiple shirts. Why is there always one that you never wear?
Prayer in schools and school busing are both controversial. I propose a joint solution.
It seems like cockpit voice recorders are indestructible. Why don't they make a plane that is one giant cockpit recorder?

If you have a restrictive clause, it is not parenthetic, and therefore you don't add a comma.

I think you ought to be able to lease a dog.

In the above example, the word you serves to define who the statement is directed at. The statement cannot be split into two sentences. The same guidelines for using commas can be applied to appositives and participial phrases.

My uncle Tonto had sexual intercourse with a pelican. (Restrictive). Uncle Tonto had a tough life; intercourse with a pelican is not an easy thing to live down. (Nonrestrictive).
My uncle Lochinvar was a moral vegetarian.(Restrictive).
Uncle Lochinvar, although a moral vegetarian who only ate meat if the animal had died in its sleep, once punched out his twin daughters because they wouldn't lend him fifteen cents. (Nonrestrictive).

When the main clause in your sentence is preceded by a subordinate clause or phrase, be sure to use a comma.

Regarding a wild goose chase, why are these wild geese supposed to be so hard to find? They're right up there in the sky. I see them flying over in big flocks all the time in the spring and fall. They don't seem to be hiding. So why do we make such a big deal out of this?

7. Use a colon after an independent clause to introduce a list of particulars, an appositive, an amplification, or an illustrative quotation.

Skippin' right past the obligatory shit pipe colon joke, aw who am I kiddin, I'm snickering too. At any rate, the colon sits right above the comma and below the semicolon in the hierarchy of punctuation. It's got more of a punch than a comma, but doesn't have power of separation the semicolon has; The colon is fancier and more formal than that fuckin' slob the dash. It typically follows an independent clause, and you use it to separate a verb from its complement or to separate an object from its object. Keep in mind, if you morons couldn't figure it out already, the examples below in the left column are wrong, and the ones on the right are correct.

Quelling a Rice Krispie rebellion requires: a step-ladder, heavy fruits, and blinding rage. Quelling a Rice Krispie rebellion requires three things: a step-ladder, heavy fruits, and blinding rage.

You can also use a colon to tie two independent clauses together, you know, if it actually makes fuckin' sense.

Here's something I can do without: People ahead of me on the supermarket line who are paying for an inexpensive item by credit card or personal check.

Elementary Principles of Composition

15. Put Statements in positive form.

Assert yourself in your writing. Don't pussyfoot around and use weak language. Also, use the word not as a means of denial in your writing, and as a means of antithesis. Never use it as a means of evasion.

Mrs. Goodwrench does not like men. Mrs. Goodwrench is a lesbian.
The pope doesn't have any more authority than I do, he just has people who believe it. I have just as much authority as the pope, I just don't have as many people who believe it.

17. Omit Needless Words.

If anything pisses me off, it's needless words and euphemisms. Make your writing concise and clear; flowery language makes you look like a douchebag. Don't write like a moron, but redundancy and overstatement makes for shitty, sloppy writing. Don't swing between the two extremes however; simplify your writing too much, and your reader might think your IQ lower than your font size.

Here's a list of my favorite unnecessary words and expressions:

Emergency Situation
Free of Charge
Blue in Color
Bare Naked

A Few Matters of Form


When you're using a slang word or phrase or a colloquialism, just fuckin' do it; don't consider yourself intelligent and draw attention to it by using quotation marks. It makes you look like an arrogant, pretentious asshole. It's as if you're asking your reader to join you in your ivory tower. I got an ivory tower for you right here, fucko.


Using an exclamation point to emphasize a mundane statement makes you look like an asshole. Don't do it.

White people fucked up the blues! White people fucked up the blues.
I am not in compliance! I am not in compliance.

Save those exclamation points for where they'll really make an impact:

A fuckin' command or exclamation!

This is just some printing.

Words and Expressions Commonly Misused

Acronym. An acronym is not just any set of initials. It applies only to those that are pronounced as words. MADD, DARE, NATO, and UNICEF are acronyms. FBI, CIA, and KGB are not. They're just pricks.

Forte. The English word forte, meaning “specialty” or “strong point,” is not pronounced “for-tay.” Got that? It's pronounced “fort.” The Italian word forte, used in music notation, is pronounced “for-tay,” and it instructs the musician to play loud: “She plays the skin flute, and her forte [fort] is playing forte [for-tay].” Look it up. And don't give me that whiny shit, “For-tay is listed as the second preference.” There's a reason it's second: because it's not first!

Rice Krispies. Delicate, beige blisters of air, made of rice and pure evil. The only solution for these little bastards is to drown them in the milk by dropping fruit on them. A dense, heavy fruit is essential to properly do the job. I suggest watermelons, coconuts, or durians.

Some phrases have emerged somewhat recently that make an effort to soften language, to ensure nothing offends anyone. Fuck this. If I find you using any of these phrases, I will come to your house, and shit directly on your computer.

Bathroom Tissue. It's fucking toilet paper, folks.

A Civil Disorder. Despite the muddled language, is nothing but a riot. Fucking pussy language.

An Approach to Carlin

1. Place yourself in the background.

Write in a way that emphasizes the language and mechanics of the work, instead of the feelings and motivations of the author. If the author is skilled enough, their natural talent, emotions, and soul will be evident in the work itself. So all of you poor bastards should just quit while you're ahead; you're fucked.

6. Do not overwrite.

Sure, we all want to compare our respective literary penis sizes by showing how well we can write. Flowery, overcomplicated writing must be avoided. There are a few reasons for this. For one, being bombastic makes you sound like you believe you are better than your audience. Second, it makes your piece hard to follow. If you absolutely must be a bombastic prick, then put your money where your mouth is. Flex that overdeveloped vocabulary and write somethin' worthwhile, dipshit. Prove you're no slave to the dilettantes and write something on the scale of Dante's Inferno. Or shut the fuck up.

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